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Tuesday, April 10, 2007

It Takes A Village - Food Inspectors

Today I received a recall that bothered me.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) and Tickleberry's are warning people with allergies to milk, soy, sulphites, peanuts and wheat proteins not to consume Tickleberry's Chocolate Covered Dried Fruit products described below. The affected products contain milk, soy, sulphites, peanuts and wheat which are not declared on the label. (Several) Tickleberry's Chocolate Covered Dried Fruit products, sold in 100 g packages, are affected by this alert. These products have been distributed nationally.

My concern with this recall is that it was a multiple allergy alert for a product that was measured in 100g kid-sized packages. I decided to pick up the phone and call Dale Hoy. It was an interesting conversation.

Eight years ago Dale's company had their labels reviewed by the Canada Food Inspection Agency. Since that time the rules have changed and due to a lack of awareness, Dale's company did not stay current. Labels were created for new products per the old rules and thus products did not include complete allergy labeling.

After a recent inspection it was determined that Dale's products did not comply with the new allergy labeling standards. The result is a voluntary recall, though Dale freely admits that the vast majority of the product is already sold. The company is based in BC but due to the inclusion of its products in gift baskets, 50,000 units of these products are spread across the country and are long ago in the hands of consumers.

Notice that this did not happen altruistically. The cost for a boutique manufacturer to revamp labeling is quite steep. Dale conceded that small manufacturers would not likely do this on their own. The food inspector is the person that triggered this 'voluntary' recall.

This plant produces fudge, ice cream, cookies and other products. Nuts, soy, milk, sulphites are all ingredients used in the plant. The bottom line is that without external intervention many producers would be going to market with outdated labeling that potentially puts kids at risk of fatal allergic reactions.

It takes a village to manage anaphylaxis and in this case the food inspector delivered.

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